Matt Stairs, who enjoyed success with the Phillies young hitters in his first season as the team’s hitting coach, exited for San Diego on Friday in the face of uncertainty in his position with the Phillies. The Phillies fired manager Pete Mackanin and said that they would let the new manager decide on who he wanted on his coaching staff. At the time that Stairs left, there was no definite word on who would be the next Phillies manager, but that was answered on Monday when Gabe Kapler was named as the team’s manager.
When Stairs left, Kapler and Dusty Wathan were the final two candidates for the job, with former Red Sox manager John Farrell a distant third.
The Phillies should have kept Stairs on as the team’s hitting coach and told the next manager that he could fill the rest of the staff with whoever he wanted. Stairs was able to get through to the team’s young players and was credited by many of them for having helped them develop their mechanics and their approach at the plate. Now, those players will have to work with a different hitting coach in 2018, which for guys who like Odubel Herrera, will be their third hitting coach in three seasons.
The fact that Stairs was able to get through to the team’s hitters and that the numbers showed progress from one season to the next is just one reason why he should have been kept. There was no reason to mess with the guy who had become an important part of the development of young players.
Secondly, none of the managerial candidates, with the possible exception of Farrell, have enough firepower behind them to insist that they get to name all of the coaches. It’s highly unlikely that Kapler or Wathan – or Farrell for that matter – would have turned down the job because Stairs was staying on as the hitting coach. Worst case scenario would have been that they would have asked to revisit keeping Stairs after the 2018 season if they weren’t comfortable with him.
The rest of the coaching staff can easily be replaced, and probably should have been anyway. Larry Bowa has taken a job in the Phillies front office and third base coach Juan Samuel had interviewed for the manager’s job with the Phillies, but was never a serious candidate. Samuel, first base coach Mickey Morandini and pitching coach Bob McClure are free agents, in effect. McClure is probably gone. Samuel and Morandini are both question marks, although it’s likely that both will be offered some position within the organization if Kapler doesn’t keep them on the coaching staff. In fact, if Wathan exits after being the runner-up for the manager’s job, Morandini could take over as Boss Hogg with the Lehigh Valley IronPigs.
There are a couple of internal candidates to replace Stairs, although it’s very possible that Kapler will have a few names of his own. Charlie Hayes spent the season as a bench coach with Lehigh Valley and could become a part of the major league staff, as could Andy Tracy, who has been the Phillies minor league hitting coordinator for the past few seasons. Hayes was well received in his first season coaching with the team and Tracy has been credited with helping many of the young hitters as they moved through the Phillies organization.